#2: I once went to a student's home for dinner and survived.
English as a Second Language (ESL) students are among the grandest on Earth. In all my years of teaching, I have met a variety of students. Some are mean and yucky, but some are simply marvelous. The ESL students were among my favorites and during the years I taught ESL, I received several invites to meals in their homes. To refuse would have been the harshest of insults.
I have been the guest of honor many times in my students' homes, but the most memorable was my experience in a Cambodian home in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
I had taught two children from the same family and some of their cousins, as well, that year and truly loved them. It was my first ESL job and I learned that there was much more to good teaching than simply going over vocabulary and syntax. My students didn't know how to dress for the weather (they didn't even have winter clothing), they didn't know how to eat the food served in the school lunchroom, they didn't know how to get help in a medical emergency. It became my personal mission that year to get my students over all those hurdles and more.
So when the invitation to dinner arrived, my supervisor gave her blessing, and I headed over to the students' home one Sunday. The family graciously welcomed me. I was seated alone at the table while my translator student sat with the men on the floor: all watching my every move. We "talked" for quite a while before the food was brought out by three generations of women. It was placed before me. At some point I understood that I alone would be eating while the extended family would all watch.
I ate many of the same foods the students had brought as gifts to me during the year. There were egg rolls and other recognizable treats. Then the main course was brought out: it was some kind of soup. By that point my irritable bowel stomach was rolling and roiling and protesting but I knew I had to eat the soup. My translator-student looked absolutely stricken when the soup arrived.
I continued to pray, asking the Lord to allow me to be gracious to my hosts.
And I ate every drop. A slurp from the bowl. A smile for the men sitting and watching me. Another slurp. A smile for the women peeking around the kitchen door. Another slurp...another smile.
As we eventually walked from the house, my student-translator explained that the soup had taken many, many hours to prepare. The day before my feast, the entire family had gone to the public park. There, they dug and hunted and found hundreds of snails. The snails were brought home and became my soup.
In later years I would enjoy Mexican, Puerto Rican, Lebanese, Chinese, Indian, and so many other meals courtesy of my beloved students. And in almost every situation, I alone ate while the families watched. I am just now beginning to understand what an honor those meals were.